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American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 43, No. 4, 602-632 (2000)
Instead of demonstrating the existence of environmental race and class inequalities at one point in time, social scientists must now do historical studies that explain how such inequalities are generated over time. The authors use 1990 census and 1989 Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory data to document environmental race and class inequalities in Santa Clara County, California. They then use earlier censuses and historical land use data to generate a series of demographic and industrial maps spanning 30 years, 1960 to 1990. They also consult existing local histories, planning reports, and other documents to interpret the maps and describe the county's economic, residential, and demographic development. They find that the environmental inequalities observed in 1990 were not the result of intentional siting decisions. Rather, they were the result of the combination of several "normal" processes: economic boosterism, unregulated development, and racial and ethnic differences in education, occupation, and income.
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